On Tuesday, December 15, 2015, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Government of Tanzania, and RTI International convened at the Hyatt Regency Hotel to celebrate significant reductions in malaria morbidity and mortality in mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, which have resulted in the protection of up to 8.5 million people annually. This progress was made possible in large part by the Tanzania Vector Control Scale-up Project, implemented by RTI International with support from USAID through the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). The celebration was attended by representatives of the National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) and the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Programme (ZAMEP) as well as others working to control malaria in Tanzania and across sub-Saharan Africa.
The Tanzania Vector Control Scale-up Project, which began in 2006 and will conclude its activities in September 2016, contributed to a substantial decrease in illness and death caused by malaria through a combination of interventions, including indoor residual spraying of households with insecticide (IRS), distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets, and enhanced disease surveillance. Over the past 10 years, 12 rounds of IRS were completed in 28 districts, covering a cumulative 5.9 million households; additionally, half a million bed nets were distributed in more than 2,300 schools in 19 districts of the Southern Zone. The Project also developed a state-of-the-art malaria surveillance platform allowing for real-time reporting and tracking of malaria cases from individual households to health facilities. This system now captures malaria data from all 170 public and private sector health facilities in Zanzibar, allowing officials to monitor—and swiftly and effectively respond to—increases in malaria, ultimately paving the road for malaria elimination.
At the celebration event, Paul Weisenfeld, Executive Vice President of RTI International, commented that “RTI is proud to have played a role in supporting Tanzania’s malaria control programs to achieve great success.”
The Tanzania Vector Control Scale-up Project implemented by RTI worked closely with the malaria control programs in Tanzania and Zanzibar to implement IRS and other vector control interventions in high malaria prevalence areas, such as the Lake Zone and the Zanzibar islands. Additionally, it strengthened capacity and sustainability at local and national levels by training more than 100,000 program personnel to plan for, implement, and monitor IRS operations. The Project supported the National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) to establish an entomology laboratory and insectaries to comprehensively monitor for insecticide resistance in 26 national surveillance sites throughout the country. It was also instrumental in supporting the development of comprehensive guidelines and training modules on national malaria vector control and surveillance.
In a panel discussion at the event, Dr. Renata Mandike, Deputy Program Manager National Malaria Control Programme (NMCP) stated that, “The fact that we have a strategy now to engage communities on effective malaria prevention and appropriate treatment is a major milestone for the Government of Tanzania.”
Dr. Mohammed Jiddawi, Principal Secretary for the Zanzibar Ministry of Health noted “Malaria used to be the number one diagnosed disease in Zanzibar and now it is not even among the top 10 diseases sending people to the hospital.”
The most recent national survey data shows that in Zanzibar, malaria prevalence dropped from 25 percent in 2006 to less than 1 percent in 2011. In Kagera Region in Mainland Tanzania, prevalence dropped from 41 percent in 2007 to 9 percent in 2011. In the same period, infant and maternal mortality rates decreased by 25 percent and 20 percent respectively. It is expected that survey data coming out in 2016 will show even further gains in the control of malaria in Tanzania.
In his remarks, Tim Donnay, USAID Acting Mission Director said “This project shows what is possible when there is a shared approach. The United States Government is committed to partnering with the Government of Tanzania to strengthen health systems and find ways to mobilize domestic resources that can support a strong and sustainable health sector.”